MBC Update

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MBC agreement still up in the air

By Jonathan Friedman

Special to the Malibu Times

The Malibu Bay Company (MBC) and the city do not have a final deal for the revised MBC Development Agreement.

City Attorney Christi Hogin made the surprise announcement at Thursday’s brief City Council meeting. The council vote on a revised agreement has been continued to Monday’s regular meeting. This comes just two days after the council all but officially endorsed the yet-to-be finished document.

“Despite a committed effort and, I think, good faith by all parties, we’ve been unable to come to terms that I think would be acceptable to the city, and certainly not terms that I can recommend to you [the council],” Hogin said in her quick staff report.

Hogin declined to go in-depth on what was left in dispute between the two parties. Her only response was that MBC attorney Dick Volpert had approached her prior to the meeting with information affecting the terms of payment for the city’s potential purchase of the Chili Cook-Off site. Before she could answer or at least hear more questions, Hogin was whisked away by Mayor Ken Kearsley to meet with MBC officials in the City Hall parking lot.

For about 20 minutes, a large contingent of city and MBC officials spoke outside. Then, Hogin, Volpert, MBC spokesperson David Reznick and Councilmember Jeff Jennings re-entered City Hall for an apparent continuation of the negotiation process. City Manager Katie Lichtig’s whereabouts were unknown, but as she was part of the parking lot meeting, she could have already entered City Hall. The group remained there for about an hour and a half.

Later, Volpert and Reznick were seen speaking with one another in the parking lot. They declined to comment on what had occurred while they spoke with Hogin and Jennings.

“I have absolutely no idea,” said Volpert, when asked about whether there will be an official deal ready for Monday’s meeting. “Everyone is talking.”

The council was supposed to have voted on the agreement at its special meeting on Tuesday, but Hogin announced that it needed just a little bit more time to be finalized. At that meeting, which surprisingly had a less-than-room-capacity crowd in attendance, passions ran high as the council and the public talked about the pending agreement. While some residents praised it, several sided with the Planning Commission’s recommendations from the previous night, including that the council not rush to a November election. But the council said it was essential to get the process moving, so as to place the city in the best position possible for getting the grants and loans it needs to purchase the Chili Cook-Off site, the most significant part of the deal.

“We can’t go to the state and say, ‘Boy do we have an idea. We think maybe we might have a deal. We don’t want to vote on it … till hell freezes over. Would you mind giving us … $25 million?'” Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Barovsky said.

But Malibu Community Action Network (CAN) member Steve Uhring said that the whole concept was a “crapshoot,” quoting a word that Jennings had used at a Malibu CAN meeting in June. He said he hoped the council would take more time to come up with something better, including getting assurance that the funding would be coming.

Uhring added that he agreed with the Planning Commission’s recommendation that the agreement not include the element that if the city fails to buy the Chili Cook-Off site in three years, the MBC could develop there under the original agreement.

But the council said the company would not agree to that, adding that there was a third and worse option-for the MBC to develop its properties under the interim zoning ordinance (IZO). Interim Planning Manager Ed Knight said that would be about 100,000 square feet more than there is included in the revised agreement, and 65,000 square feet more than in the original one. And with that, the MBC would not have to grant any public benefits.

“I’ve been fighting development now for over 30 years,” Barovsky said. “I think I’d be an idiot to not finally face the fact that I would rather get something out of the deal, and cut their development in the process.”

But in a telephone interview Friday morning, Malibu CAN member Ozzie Silna said he did not accept Knight’s numbers. He said the MBC could not develop fully under the IZO, because it would mean the company would create more daily wastewater than it could dispose of onsite.